Saturday, April 13, 2019

Proxima Doma: The Hinterland (Part IV)

The thing about the original Savior program, and which Étude herself didn’t always know about, was that most of the people saved had no recollection of it. There was a lot of secret power behind the whole operation, and it involved a lot more than one person teleporting around, getting people out of bad situations. The sheer number of people who were ultimately helped by one of the Saviors throughout history would have resulted in the secret of it, well...never actually being a secret. At the very least, as soon as internet message boards started existing, rumors would have been so consistently accurate that it would be hard to argue against their veracity. Chances are high that you know someone who has been rescued by a Savior at some point in their life. In order to protect the secret, people’s memories had to be altered, and in modern days, other—more inescapably reliable—forms of evidence had to be changed too. It was unclear whether the powers that be what controlled Étude’s missions were themselves responsible for proverbially flashy thinging witnesses, or if they got choosing ones to do it. However it was done, it was something Étude and Vitalie could not. After some thoughtful discussions, they both agreed that they needed to find a different way.
“The problem is we’re so isolated here. We’re living in the hinterland.”
“This is true,” Vitalie agreed, “but I’m not following your point.”
“If we were on Earth, we would have access to the chooser network,” Étude answered vaguely.
“Is that a TV thing?”
“If you need something done, and it requires a time power to do it, and you don’t have that time power, and you don’t know someone who has that time power, then you know someone who knows someone who has that power. Or you know someone who knows someone who can find someone who has that power. All you gotta do is ask for help, and hope that your reputation—from both the past and future—hasn’t ruined your relationship with the right people. Take Arcadia, for instance. She tormented Leona and all her friends on Tribulation Island. She tore them out of time one by one, and forced them to compete in challenges to get them back.”
Vitalie nodded, “yes, I remember the stories.”
Étude went on, “she would often watch them covertly from another dimension, or she would teleport in, or control someone else’s body, so she could talk through them. Well, she alone wasn’t capable of doing most of these things. She really only had the one ability, so whenever she needed any of the others, she got someone else to do it for her. Now, she used threats and violence to get what she wanted, but you get the idea. This is a roundabout way of explaining that, if we were on Earth, or were capable of contacting the right people on Earth, there would be a time power solution to our memory problem.”
“Well, I might be able to contact someone on Earth. Who do we need, do I know them?”
“I thought you had to know them to communicate remotely, and I didn’t think you could reach all the way to another solar system.”
“I can’t go that far on my own, but fortunately, we have a workaround. I can piggyback on a signal that’s being sent to Earth, and talk to anyone I want, whether their near their own QM, or not. That’s how I’ve stayed in touch with my dads without anyone here knowing about it.”
“I didn’t know you were talking to them,” Étude said. “Well, what about that other question? Don’t you have to know someone in order to send you consciousness to them?”
“I can do it if I’m with someone who does know them. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t always work, but it’s possible.”
“Well, I suppose it can’t hurt to try, am I right? I knew a guy who could manipulate memories. He couldn’t blend people’s brains, like Nerakali or The Warrior, so he can’t make you remember alternate realities, but he can reconcile temporal corruptions. If you were to teleport someone out of a fire, he could make them think they found their own way out, or a firefighter rescued them.”
Vitalie nodded. “If you believe he can help us, I’m willing to give it a shot.”
“Do you need to be...” Étude didn’t know how this worked.
“No, I can do it from here,” Vitalie explained. “The QM is pretty much always on. Take my hands.”
The two of them held both each other’s hands, and closed their eyes to concentrate. “Okay, think of the person you’re trying to contact,” Vitalie instructed. “Think about his face; the shape of his jawline, color of his eyes. The fall of his hair. Think about the sound of his voice, and the manner of his gait.”
Étude did as she was told, and tried to remember everything she could about one Tertius Valerius. They could feel their minds being torn from their respective homes in their brains, and traveling across the planet, right to the Oblivio dome.
Tertius was standing in front of some kind of electrical box, messing with the wires. He stopped and looked over at them. “Oh, hi, babes.”
“Tertius? You’re on Proxima Doma.”
“That’s right,” he confirmed. “Where are you?”
Étude was very confused. “We’re here too, in Dome Four.”
“Isn’t that the one that collapsed?” he asked.
“That was Shelter Forty-One, and also...not..real.”
Tertius nodded, and started eying the electrical box. A part of him wanted to get back to work; doing whatever it was he was doing.
“So, what are you doing here?” Étude questioned.
“I work here,” he said. “In life support.”
“You’re not a systems engineer.”
“I’m learning,” he said with a shrug. “They needed my particular set of skills, so I’m working as an apprentice.”
“What skills do y—” Étude stopped herself. “You’re making the memory wipe technology work.”
He smiled. “They couldn’t figure it out. Sure, they can erase everyone’s memories of their own pasts, but that leaves so many gaps. Where did they come from? Who are their families? Do they like chicken? They don’t just want people thinking everyone in their literal microcosm suddenly appeared out of nowhere with amnesia. They want to fabricate an entire history. That’s where I come in. Should anyone in this dome start to remember things they shouldn’t, or question the nature of their reality, the environment can correct it in realtime. Life support.”
“The Oblivios know what you can do?” Vitalie asked. “They know about time powers, and choosing ones?”
Tertius laughed. “I came to them with revolutionary technology that I refuse to allow anyone but them to utilize. They have no clue I can just do it with my mind. They’ve been...quite grateful.”
“Well, they’re not the only ones who could use your help,” Vitalie began the pitch. “We’re restarting the Savior program.”
“You’re coming out of retirement?” he asked Étude.
“She’ll be taking over,” Étude said. “We’re calling it the Caretaker program.”
He nodded again, and yawned. “So, you want my help keeping your schtick under wraps, I dig it.”
“You can dig it, but can you do it?”
It was hard to tell what he was thinking as he was staring at them, but it felt like he wasn’t going to agree to help them unless he was getting something out of it. “I can, but I’m not sure I should. I’ve committed to the OPP dome. You’re asking me to divide my attention.” Okay, that wasn’t an unreasonable concern.
“What do you want?” Vitalie asked.
“Vita, careful,” Étude whispered to her, but it was loud enough for Tertius to hear.
“No, let’s not dance around this,” Vitalie argued. “He doesn’t work for free, this much is clear.” She directed her attention back to Tertius. “So name your price.”
“I want a house—no, a mansion—no, a tower!” He sought answers in the space before him at a forty-five degree angle. “A Sauron tower, with a panopticon.”
“You wanna rule over Proxima Doma?” Vitalie questioned.
“Not Doma,” he said. “Just this...doma. And I don’t want to rule them; I just want to live in a tower.”
“Aren’t the Oblivios meant to not have any technology? Surely they would notice a giant tower lording over them from the center of their world.”
He literally handwaved this problem. “I can make ‘em forget. I can make ‘em forget they saw a tower while they’re looking at the tower. I can basically be invisible.”
“Wull, I can’t build towers,” Vitalie said regrettably. “So, it’s not up to me.”
“I want this fix just as much as you do,” Étude told her, then she looked back at Tertius. “But you better be right the Oblivios won’t be able to see it. If you make me part of destroying an entire culture’s worldview, I’ll knock you off that tower. My mother did that once, and I inherited more from her than just her blood, so don’t think I’ll hesitate.”
He mimed cutting an X into his heart.
“I need verbal confirmation.”
“I solemnly swear that I am up to all good. Believe it or not, I feel for these primitivists. They’re sacrificing everything they have to start new lives, and they’re going to great lengths to unburden the rest of humanity from them. I’m not getting paid for this. I’m helping, because I want them to have what they need to be happy. It also reminds me of where I grew up, back before the common era.
“Then we have a deal,” Vitalie said with finality. “Let’s shake on it.”

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